July 8, 2020: Community Conversations Transcript

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Joe Helble:

Good afternoon, and welcome everyone to our eighth Community Conversation, addressing planning, response and operations in the time of COVID-19. I’m Joe Helble, the provost of Dartmouth College, and I’m joining you once again from the Star Instructional Studio in Berry Library. I’m joined today by Justin Anderson, our VP for Communications from another studio on campus, and also joined today by Josh Keniston, our current interim vice president of campus services, our VP for institutional projects, and the co-chair of Dartmouth’s campus-wide COVID-19 task force. I’m also joined by Elizabeth Smith, the Paul M. Dauten, Jr. Professor of Biological Sciences, and since 2017, the dean of Dartmouth’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Both campus leaders will be joining us by Zoom from their individual offices this afternoon. As always, we’ll begin with the campus update, I’ll take some live questions and offer my responses moderated by Justin Anderson, and then we’ll turn to our conversation with campus leaders.

Today, I’d like to touch on our recent announcements and developments in a few key areas, an update on our research reopening, including the libraries, where we have moved to the next stage of reopening. And then turn to last week’s announcement on academic and operational planning as we look ahead to fall term 2020 and the return of undergraduate students to the Dartmouth campus.

Before doing that, however, I’d like to comment on a question that I know is on the minds of many of our students, particularly our international student community. As many of you know, just two days ago, on Monday afternoon, the department of Homeland Security’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program issued initial operational guidance for international students for the fall 2020 academic semester or term. The guidance will inevitably make it much more challenging for many international students, not just at Dartmouth, but at institutions across the country to pursue their education against the backdrop of the global pandemic that we’re all facing.

As President Hanlon has said, and as we said in a statement that Dartmouth released this morning, we collectively remain firm in our belief that Dartmouth can realize its full potential only if it welcomes the most talented students, faculty, and scholars from around the globe, regardless of their nation of origin. Any action that restricts the free exchange of ideas, including actions that restrict the participation of citizens from around the globe, restricts the participation of students from around the globe, limits our ability to advance Dartmouth’s core academic mission.

By restricting the participation of any group of students, and here specifically, our international students, in courses that our talented and dedicated faculty may choose to offer by online learning, a step that many faculty on many campuses are taking specifically to support the health and safety of their communities in the face of an unprecedented global pandemic. Well, this new guidance strikes at the very heart of that mission.

Dartmouth has therefore joined with several of our peers in opposing this guidance through an amicus brief, supporting a lawsuit filed today by Harvard and MIT, a lawsuit seeking a temporary restraining order, prohibiting enforcement of this guidance. On campus, with the support of OVIS, the Office of Visa and Immigration Services, we are actively exploring possible solutions for fall term instruction and housing for our international students within the confines of the guidance as we presently understand it, including assessment of the FAQ issued by the government, by the department of Homeland Security just late yesterday afternoon. We’ll keep the community, and particularly our international student community, updated, informed as this all moves forward as best we can. Here, I ask for your patience, but I also ask all of our students, particularly our international community, to understand that we are firmly supportive of your desires, goals and wishes to continue your education at Dartmouth this coming year.

Let me turn now to the first of the two topics that I mentioned, and that’s the status of our research reopening, progress as we’ve moved from phase one to one A, to one B, to one C, and now to phase two over the past several weeks. This is a topic that’s addressed frequently these past several months in our plan for reopening our research facilities and reestablishing, rebuilding, reconstituting, much of our on-campus scholarly work over the course of the summer.

We are now in our sixth week of intentionally phased reopening of research laboratories. And by all accounts, the deliberately phased and staged transition has continued to go smoothly. So for this, I want to thank Vice Provost for research Dean Madden and his team of collaborators, including members of the working group in task force, who’ve worked tirelessly to take faculty and student considerations into account, research staff considerations into account and devise a process that is staged, structured, and designed to move us smoothly and appropriately from one phase to the next.

Two weeks ago, in our last community conversation, I noted that we’d moved into phase one C, which began to allow weekend access to laboratory facilities. And at that point I promised two things, that there would be addition of Sunday access to laboratories, thus allowing seven days per week access during specific hours, starting the weekend of the July Fourth holiday, just this past weekend. An announcement of the implementation of phase two, designed to allow more than one individual per laboratory, and to do so prior to the start of July. I had also indicated our intention to move to the first phase of library reopening by mid-July, if not sooner.

Well, as we announced, campus wide, in emails to faculty and staff and via Vox Daily this morning through the leadership of Vice Provost Madden, and through Dean of the Library Sue Mehrer, and their campus colleagues, again, including the taskforce in the working group, we have indeed moved to phase two of our research reopening and effective today as of 10 a.m. today, we have reopened Baker Library to members of the Dartmouth community with current IDs.

First, let me make a few comments on what phase two of research entails, and then I’ll touch briefly on the library. And as always, I need to note that much of what we have been requiring for accessing research laboratories has not changed. For example, we continue to ask that everyone who can work remotely, who can do data analysis or paper writing remotely, needs to continue doing so. We are also requiring that everyone, daily check-in using the TSA questionnaire and that PIs need to be verifying and checking the status of their lab members and reminding them daily.

What does phase two entail, which was announced last week on July 1? With the onset of phase two, we are now permitting multiple researchers per laboratory group subject to requirements of physical distancing, masking when there are multiple people present, disinfection protocols being followed before and after work, and other requirements that are articulated in our FAQ website. We also require development of a plan and submitting that documentation to EHS before work can begin. But with these steps and adherence to the guidelines, as of this week, we have expanded access hours from 7 a.m. to 12 a.m. midnight, Monday to Friday, and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, thus restoring seven day a week access to the research laboratories for research scientist, research students, research faculty on this campus.

And again, all of this is outlined in detail on the EHS website or through Dartmouth’s COVID-19 website. It’s too early to know what these changes have meant and will mean in terms of the ramp up of activity, but I’m optimistic that phase two will support continuing increase in research activity as we’ve seen, as we made the transition from phase one to one A, one B, and one C over the course of the past six weeks. So, thanks to everyone who played a role in making that happen. The research community, I know, is excited and thankful to be taking this next step.

In terms of the libraries, I’ve always spoken to the libraries in the context of a research update, because of the importance of the libraries to our teaching mission and to our research mission. As mentioned in the VOX announcement this morning, as of 10 a.m. today, collections in Baker Berry and the Sherman stacks have been reopened to the Dartmouth faculty staff and student community with current ID required for access. In addition, the round or special collections library is now open to onsite access by appointment only for Dartmouth faculty staff and graduate students Monday to Friday from 9 a.m.to 12 a.m. Both of these provide significant steps forward for our research community to access scholarly materials on their own or with the assistance of library staff to conduct their work or prepare their teaching for the upcoming fall quarter. Details are provided in the announcement this morning and also on the library website, there’s a link via the library homepage at library.dartmouth.edu.

And finally, let me turn, for the last several minutes of my remarks, to the big announcement that was made last week. And that is the June 29 announcement of our academic year plan for academic year 2021. All along through these conversations and in our written communications and other remarks, President Hanlon, and I have stressed our goal of supporting the maximum number of students we can, returning to the campus, guided first and foremost, by the application of appropriate public health standards and safeguards. And all along our decisions were informed by input and recommendation from many groups, federal and state of New Hampshire guidance monitoring the progression of the pandemic in the Upper Valley, of course, but also in the parts of the country and the world that are home to many of our students, working with our taskforce, helping to provide recommendations and options through its many working groups, guiding our decisions since the beginning of the year.

The academic working group consisting of deans, associate deans and members of the faculty and the dean of the College, advising and guiding on some of the academic decisions we need to make. And as I’ve mentioned in the past, the health working group, working jointly with the DHMC on testing, potentially surveillance and treatment of students and our community members as necessary once we begin to return to residential operations in the fall.

In our last gathering, I described our plans for an integrated full year solution through summer 2021. And that is in fact, what we announced last Monday, June 29. As promised, all undergraduate students will have a chance to be here residentially for part of their education, but not all at the same time. We’re using, as you know, our term-based system in the deep plan to our advantage, offering all of our undergraduate students, the opportunity for two residential terms during the upcoming academic year.

As promised, our first-year students will be treated as a cohort to give them the opportunity collectively to get to know one another and to begin to build some cohesion as a class. And they will thus have the same residential terms in fall and spring. Every other class has been given priority for one specific term, which means that students in those class years expressing a preference for that term will in fact, be given priority over other class years for that term.

It was also important to us in making these decisions, having heard from many students on this point, that students be given some choice, some ability to express a preference for residential terms. This is why we’ve asked all of you, our students, to provide us with your preferences by July 20. As Dean of the College Kathryn Lively indicated in her note to the student community, also sent out last Monday, “This is emphatically not a first come first serve process.” We simply ask you, let us to note, that you let us know by the June 20 deadline. The registrar will post fall term courses on July 17, and we know that many students will want to have some time to review that list before submitting your form.

Now, leading up to the decision, and subsequently I’ll say, in many emails and conversations with folks over Zoom meetings, I’ve been asked what principles were informing the decisions that we would need to make, and that we did make. Some campuses, for example, have made blanket decisions, assigning specific semesters or terms to each class of students. And I will say that taking that approach would certainly have made logistical planning far easier for many of us on campus. It would have been easier simply to remove degrees of freedom from the equation to limit choice. But I will tell you that that didn’t seem right to many of us, that did not seem like Dartmouth.

For each of us on the faculty inspect staff, the specifics may be different, but for me, and for each of us, the attention given to students collectively, and the attention given to students individually means that to the extent possible we wanted to give our students, we wanted to give you a chance to express your preference.

I do need to state the obvious, that’s not a promise of course, that we can meet every student’s first and second choice options, but it was important that we hear from you, that we hear from all of our students individually, and provide this chance to express the choice as to what works best for you, that’s consistent with the individual approach to the D plan, that’s consistent with Dartmouth’s commitment and dedication to individual students.

Now, for those of you who will be here on campus at various points in time, including the fall, there are many questions about what that experience will be like. We’ve said that there will be classes and course-related experience offered in person here on campus. We’ve also said that we anticipate, as many other colleges and universities have announced, that much of our teaching may well be done via remote learning, even for those physically present in Hanover.

A reasonable question for you to ask is why. Well, first and foremost, as I have said from the beginning, it’s driven by our highest priority, following public health guidance and taking steps to protect community health. This means, based on everything that we know at this time, there will simply not be large gatherings of individuals permitted, not in the classroom and not in social settings. This is why, based on everything we know at this point in time, that we have been honest in mentioning some of the restrictions that are likely to occur on campus. It’s why we’ve indicated that we intend to stagger student arrival times, it’s why we’ve indicated that some form of self-quarantine is highly likely, it’s why we’ve outlined our plans for extensive testing after students return to campus, all designed to help protect and support to the maximum extent possible, the health of the student body and the health of the broader Dartmouth and Upper Valley community. Now, we’ve been asked many questions already related to the fall term and beyond on these subjects and others, and questions have come from all quarters. The Student Assembly very helpfully gathered a long list of questions from the undergraduate student body. And many members of the faculty and staff are working to answer those questions. There are good questions embedded in that list, many good questions about curriculum, about majors, about off campus programs. And here, I can begin to provide some answers in advance of our providing written answers later this week. Fall off campus programs, as students know, have already been canceled. And with that, we turn our attention immediately to winter off campus programs. We’re committed to providing our answers to winter off campus programs and their ability to run or not by the January, sorry, about the July 20 deadline for students to submit their preference form for terms that they would like to be on campus.

But I will tell you honestly and openly today that it seems highly unlikely that international off campus programs will be able to operate during winter term. Spring term is to be determined, at least as far as international off campus programs go. But there also, I will say that our decisions for these programs are based on conditions on the ground in the locations to which we’d be sending students, faculty, and staff six to eight months in advance of the time of the trip because of our need to make commitments and logistical on the ground arrangements and to make commitments to our partners. That means that at the latest, by the end of the summer, we need to be in a position of anticipating conditions on the ground in March and making decisions on spring term off campus programs. So, as a result, I will be in conversations with the task force, in meetings with the deans and the academic working group to discuss these issues over the next two weeks. And I hope to be able to provide you with more information and an update either by email or in an upcoming community conversation.

Well, we’re focusing right now at first on the detailed list of questions submitted by Student Assembly, and we’re committed to answering all of those questions quickly. We’re also committed to answering all of the general questions as fully and as best as we can through continuing updates to the FAQ site, questions that have come in from parents, faculty, and staff alike. And I will say, and again, I ask you to bear with all of us who are working round the clock on these questions, that the nature of this outbreak, the nature of the pandemic, is such that there will be cases, perhaps many, where the honest answer we will give you is we simply don’t know. Let me offer as a great example the question that has been asked by first year students and their parents, what will drop off in the fall term look like, and how many family members can accompany students in setting up their rooms?

Now, as a parent myself, I know well what that first day is like under the best of circumstances, under normal circumstances. This year is certainly anything but normal. And if we think about how rapidly circumstances can change in a specific region, never mind nationally, I hope it might help us all understand why we are not being more specific today in answering those kinds of questions about logistical operations that will take place six to eight weeks from now in late August to early September. Move in and start of term are roughly two months away, and let’s think about how things can change in that period of time. On March 1, as I’ve said before, there were approximately 65 cases confirmed of COVID in the United States. And our concern here at Dartmouth at that point in time was whether or not we’d be able to allow international off campus programs to continue in the spring quarter. By May 1, two months later, there were over one million cases in the US. By July 1, we are over 2.5 million.

In encouraging news, through May and well into June, the number of daily new cases was falling gradually. But we all know how that has shifted largely over the past three weeks to new record levels of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in this country on a daily basis. My reasons for reminding us of all of this is that we can model, and we can forecast, but none of us can assert with certainty today what the situation nationally and globally, never mind regionally, will be like in two months’ time. So back to the specific question, this is perhaps a long way of saying that we do anticipate there will be limits on the number of people who can accompany a student on drop-off, but we ask that you wait until the week of Aug. 16. Please bear with us so that we can evaluate ongoing developments and progression of the pandemic, look at updated guidance for colleges and universities, and make decisions that are informed by the situation at that point in time to provide specific details to our students and their families.

So, let me simply end by saying going forward, there are many, many questions that remain to be answered. Over the next two months, as we work through them, and particularly as we turn to details related to student life on campus and student engagement with the campus for those in residence this fall, we’ll continue to use our task force and our campus structures, and we’ll also be setting up a direct mechanism for more deep and direct student input as we work through these operational questions that impact and affect students. So, to our students, I will say directly, we need your input and your partnership in working through many of these questions for fall term.

Dean Lively, who’s been meeting with student leaders throughout the past six weeks, will be putting together an advisory group by the end of this week to solicit input from students on different options in areas where we have choices. Professor Jon Kull, the dean of the Guarini School, has already been meeting with the Graduate Student Council approximately monthly, and he will continue to engage with them on that schedule to address their questions and also seek graduate student input on issues relevant to the graduate student community broadly. And finally, let me say that I know Dean Slaughter, Compton, and Abramson and their offices will also continue to answer questions for the Tuck, Thayer, and Geisel communities about issues specific to their programs. They and we will be providing more information in the weeks ahead as those decisions are made.

So, let me simply end and close by once more saying thank you to the Dartmouth community. I’ve heard from students who wish their classes prioritized term were different, or who wish we could open up more of the campus more quickly. And let me say, I absolutely understand that. I’ve also heard from students who recognize how challenging this has been for everyone and who’ve gone to great lengths to single out a professor or professors for clarity of lectures, for engagement of the full class, and even for their creative ways to accomplish group projects this past spring term. That, for me, is inspiring and what is exactly the best about Dartmouth. Thank you all for your attention, thanks for your engagement. And let me turn to Justin now, I’d be happy to take just a few questions before we turn to Elizabeth and Josh and begin to address some of the operational and logistical details. Justin?

Justin Anderson:

Thank you very much, Joe. I’ll just say at the outset here that we are being inundated with questions about the recent guidance from ICE. And while they’re all very good questions, please bear with us as we take the time to assess the guidance and truly figure out what it means for Dartmouth and for our students. I would, Joe, like to ask just one question. It’s actually taps into sort of a theme of many of the questions on this subject and it sort of amounts to will Dartmouth make allowances for international students, such as letting them on to campus for consecutive terms or creating more in class opportunities for them? That’s sort of what I’m seeing come in a lot, what we might be able to do, what rules that might we be able to bend based on our reopening plan that would accommodate international students.


Yeah. So, thank you, Justin. And with apologies, I can’t be specific because this is also new. The regulations or the guidance was issued Monday, the FAQ providing a first attempt at clarification was released late yesterday afternoon. Many, many questions on the minds of many. And this, in fact, is why, given our position, our strong position of unequivocal support for our international student community, we immediately joined with Harvard and MIT in supporting an amicus filing in support of their request for a temporary restraining order.

We are committed to finding ways to support these students. The two mechanisms we have at our disposal are finding ways to make sure we can engage them if they are on campus in residential learning through hybrid or residential on campus courses, and through thinking about prioritizing that student group in residence halls to the best of our ability. And so, these are questions that we need to answer over the course of the coming days and weeks. We need to get better interpretation and better understanding of the Homeland Security ICE rules in guidance before committing to going in a specific path. But what I can say is that unequivocally, we are committed to doing everything we can to find ways to make this work for our students and to enable Dartmouth students to continue their Dartmouth education every term they seek to this coming year.


Joe, there’s a number of questions coming in that, to me, seem like are being articulated by people trying to figure out what the on-campus experience is going to look like in the fall. For instance, people are asking, will the gym be open? Will FoCo be open? Will the Hop be open? One person asks, can you try to paint a picture of what residential life will look like on campus? So, could you try to give a sense of what you think the campus will look like for students upon return in the fall?


I can, Justin. But the thing I can say with most certainty is it will be different. It will be different on this campus; it will be different on every campus. And I think there’s no way of avoiding that as we watch the progression of the disease, particularly over the past few months. In the unlikely scenario of having a vaccine developed and deployed by any point in fall term, campus life will be different. That means we will be asking and enforcing social distancing. That means we will be asking students to wear a mask when they’re in common spaces. But it does mean, and it is our intention consistent with the announcement today, that we will have the library, for example, open. We were talking, I was in conversation with John Stomberg, the director of the Hood Museum, earlier today about steps that we can take to allow student, faculty, and staff limited and controlled access the Hood Museum to supplement their education or to satisfy their curiosity over the course of the fall term, again, in a thoughtful and measured way, the same way we have approached the library reopening.

Performing arts venues, that’s another question. Those, as public health experts have said, are some of the most challenging operations to reopen. And I honestly do not know whether we will be in a position to allow performances to go forward in Spaulding over the course of the fall term. The gym falls somewhere in between. Might it be possible to offer a limited gym access under restricted hours with cleaning in between? Yes, one can imagine that scenario being possible. But do we have plans today to do that? We’re not yet at the point where we can contemplate that. Again, we have to look to guidance from public health experts, the ability that we have of staff to manage the facilities, including residence halls and classroom spaces, and figure out how it is that we can most effectively support some of these other areas on campus that gives students opportunity for release.

One of the great things about being in the Upper Valley, of course, is that it is amply and abundantly possible to engage in outdoor activities safely and in a socially distanced way. And so at least through fall term, we have that opportunity and possibility as a potential outlet. But I can’t be more specific on that until we get closer to the start of the fall term and have a better sense of what conditions on the ground are going to be at that point in time. And so, I can say we recognize the importance of providing opportunities and outlets for our students, but it is public health and public health guidance that is going to be the primary determining factor in what we’re able to do.


Speaking of the start of fall term, Joe, and public health guidance, there are a number of questions here about our level of certainty that the plan that we outlined last week is definite and to what extent are we confident that what we said was going to happen will happen based on the unknowns as far as the progression of infections. And likewise, questions about what we might be seeing at other institutions and how that affects our planning. Specifically, someone writes in and mentions the outbreak of COVID cases in fraternities at the University of Washington.


Right, right. So yes, Justin, we’re very aware of what happened recently at the University of Washington and on a few other college campuses around the country. And so this is something that we are discussing in the Student Affairs Office, something we are discussing with the faculty, it’s something we are thinking about as we move forward with, as I have said and as Dean Lively has said, development of something that will effectively be a declaration of community principles that we will be asking our students to commit to and adhere to when they return to campus this fall.

This is something that’s bigger than any one of us. This is something that only works and only succeeds if our students are committed to the health and safety of one another, if the students are supporting one another in committing to protecting and promoting the health and safety of one another, if this is an entire community effort, faculty, staff, local community members, and students alike, who recognize that life is going to be not normal in the way we would like it to be here on Hanover. But by adhering to public health and safety guidelines, we can, in fact, offer some opportunity for students to engage with one another, some opportunity for students to engage with the faculty, some opportunity for students to engage with the facilities. In terms of how certain I am, I will say that as of today, the time we made the decision based on all the available information we have in front of us, and based on current projections of the disease, we are confident that this plan is the right plan for Dartmouth, and we are confident that this is the plan we are moving forward with. But I will also say humbly and fully openly, that there have been so many changes in direction in the progression of the disease over the course of the past four months, that none of us can guarantee with any certainty that the plans any campus has announced today will in fact be exactly what we implement when we open in September. This is why, for example, we are not providing information on move-in and final details of housing until mid-August. This is why we are taking these decisions in a very staged, thoughtful and deliberate way. Whenever there’s an opportunity that the situation may change, and we can learn from that information before finalizing and announcing a decision, we intend to do that. And so, we would much rather be in a position where we’re making thoughtful decisions, then making decisions today that we have to change two weeks, and four weeks ,and six weeks down the road because of changing conditions on the ground.


Joe, we have time for one more question, and this is about mental health support. How will mental health support be made accessible to students? And I guess, elatedly, how has it been made available to students over the course of the last couple of months?


Yeah. So thank you, Justin, that’s something that Kathryn Lively, the dean of the College, Kate Burke on her team, Mark Reed, the director of Dick’s House, and I, have had many conversations and exchanges on, and they’ve been working with Josh Keniston and Lisa Adams, and the task force on this as well. We recognize that these circumstances and a global pandemic put tremendous strain on all of us; faculty, staff, and students alike. And we have been committed to supporting the care of our students, including by providing mental health services as best we can throughout our two remote learning terms to date. So, we have provided services on campus where possible for students who are physically resident in Hanover, we are providing services through telehealth arrangements with our mental health counselors, for students who are no longer on campus. We are currently evaluating guidance from the different States to assess what we can continue over the course of the fall term, but I can tell you that we are committed to finding ways to supporting our students mental health, be they on campus or studying remotely over the course of the fall term. And that may very well, and I hope likely will, include continuation of the telehealth services that we can provide.

So, thanks. That’s a question that’s very much I know on the minds of many, and it’s something that we will return to in the coming weeks, as we have more information. In fact, I’m quite hopeful based on some meetings and conversations that I have set up over the course of the next week, that we’ll be able to be definitive on how we will provide those services by, let’s say the end of next week, by July 17.

So, thank you, Justin, and thanks to all who have written in with questions. I’m sorry. We don’t have more time because I know there’s a lot on many of your minds, but I’d like to turn now to our two guests who can also help answer many of the questions, both related to academics, and related to fall and logistical planning and operations. So, I’m joined now by Dean Elizabeth Smith, the dean of the faculty of arts and sciences and Professor of Biology and Josh Keniston, who’s been a frequent participant in community conversations. Welcome back, Josh, Josh being the VP for Campus Services in the interim, sorry, not the interim, but the co-director of the very active COVID-19 task force.

So, let me start with a few questions for each of you before we turn to the audience, and Elizabeth, if you don’t mind, I’d like to start with you, and focus on the role of the faculty and teaching. And you’ve spoken both publicly and in many of our one-on-one conversations and in meetings often of the incredible work by the arts and sciences faculty to pivot in just two weeks’ time, and deliver almost the entire planned spring term curriculum that we had intended to deliver on campus by remote learning. Before we turn, and I start asking you questions about the year ahead, I’m actually interested in your reflections on the term that was just completed a few weeks ago. I know we saw input from students through our usual end of term course evaluations, without revealing any specifics about an individual course, what did you learn? What jumped out at you? What worked particularly well?

Elizabeth Smith:

Yeah. Well thank you for the question, Joe, and thank you for the invitation to join you this afternoon. I appreciate it. You know, we taught over 600 courses remotely this spring term, and they ranged in topics from studio art, language acquisition, courses in government and economics and even lab sciences. And so there was an incredibly diverse array of offerings, and of course there was no shortage of creativity among the faculty and how they were going to deliver those offerings to the students remotely, regardless of the discipline, if I could say that there’s one or two themes that emerged in terms of what worked particularly well, this is probably not going to come as a surprise, but that is, any way that the faculty could incorporate activities that engaged students with the faculty, or students with each other were highly commended.

And so, let me just elaborate a little bit on that. In terms of the actual course, it could be students working together on special projects, it could be the way that the faculty member conducted office hours online, it could be just students being able to access the faculty directly. I know for example, in some of the studio art courses, faculty were evaluating individually with students, the work that they had created that quarter. There were also some sort of, what we would normally think about is out of class interactions, which I know for example, we’re not here, we can’t do formal, take a professor to lunch, but I know that the faculty were having coffee, and having lunch with their students outside of the normal classroom hours. So all of those things were, were highly coveted by the students, and I think that’s going to be a real point of focus for the upcoming terms, is making sure that we have opportunities for students to fully engage with the faculty, fully engage with each other, regardless of whether they’re on campus or remote.


Great, thanks. We’ll talk to Scott Pauls who’s the director of DCAL, but I trust that we’re capturing this and making this available, these insights, to the faculty who are teaching this summer, and certainly in the fall. That’s great to hear Elizabeth, thanks. So Josh, I want to turn to you with a logistical question that was very much on the minds of the community, I think the last time you joined us, and that was, a little over a month ago, we announced plans for returning student belongings that had been left behind when students were sent home over spring break, before the start of spring term. What can you tell us about the process? How far along are we? Are we on schedule, and when do you expect things to wrap up?

Josh Keniston:

Yeah, great question Joe, and you’ll notice I’m on campus today, which part of that is because of this process, and needing to be here as we really move things along. So, there are two pieces to this, as you will recall; first is actually packing the belongings in all of the rooms. And then the second piece was how are we actually going to return them? Whether it’s shipping, allowing students to come this month, or holding them until they return in the fall or subsequent terms. So, on the packing front, all of the graduating seniors, all of their rooms have been packed. And for those who asked to have them shipped, they will all be shipped by the end of this month. So good progress on that front. And then overall, as of the end of last week, 60% of the rooms had been packed. We added an additional 50 Dartmouth staff this week to accelerate that process.

And then today we actually started welcoming students that had pre-assigned times to come and actually pick up some of their belongings. So, we’re making good progress. We know some folks have already actually received their belongings. We had a couple of emails thanking us for doing such a good job with folding clothes and putting everything in the boxes in ways that probably they wouldn’t have on their own. It’s probably not as quickly as some students would like, but we are making good progress. And everyone that chose to have things shipped should have that going out by mid-August. So good progress on that front.


Great. So, in terms of when it may conclude, then Josh, you expect mid-August feels about right, right now? Given what we’re seeing?


Yeah. So, the packing will be done before that, but there’s an additional process to actually get things shipped. And that will be mid-August when the shipping is done. But throughout the rest of this month, we are allowing certain slots for those students that opted to come to campus to pick up their belongings. They’re able to register for those and start coming as of today.


Thanks. Great. So, Elizabeth, let me turn back to you and look ahead to fall, and the plan return of some undergraduate students to campus. And many students not surprisingly, I’ve heard this, you certainly heard this through emails and outreach, are interested in knowing more about how courses will be taught, and what courses will be taught in certain ways. Can you say a little bit more about what you envision in each of the three modes that faculty are considering; remote learning, residential learning, and in between what we’re referring to as, hybrid delivery?


Sure. So, the faculty right now, in all departments and programs are working very hard to assign designations to their courses, so that students will know in advance of registration, how the course will be offered. And so, as you mentioned, there’s sort of three general modes we can think about. For remote courses, there’s also a few twists on that. So, they could be synchronous or asynchronous. It’s very tricky this fall term, because not only are we accommodating students who are on campus and off campus, but students who are off campus are in multiple time zones. The same challenge that we had in spring term. And so, for example, if an instructor was teaching a course that only had first year students such as the First-Year Writing Program, they wanted to deliver it remotely. They could still deliver it synchronously, because we know all the students are in this time zone.

There could also be remote courses that have some maybe optional on-campus components. We want to be sure that we are providing the same learning opportunities for students who are on campus as students who are taking that course remotely. So, that leads into this kind of hybrid format where you may have a class with students who are on-campus and students who are off campus. That is the more challenging option to accommodate. We need to work carefully with our Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning, as well as our ITC, to make sure that we have all of the technology available to do that. But again, faculty understand that they need to make sure that all students have the same opportunities, whether they’re sitting in a classroom, or remotely accessing the course.

And then there could be some courses that are offered on campus. So, for example, I can envision a department that is offering multiple sections of the same course. And you could offer a section that is 100% remote. You could offer a section that is all on campus, and that way you don’t have a mixture of students in the same section. I think that would be a lot easier for faculty to manage. So those are some of the ideas about how we’re thinking about it. But again, for students who are listening, the faculty will designate their courses, and they will know that in advance of registration.


That’s great, thanks. And one of the things I’m struck by, and I may have said this before; the creativity some of our faculty and staff are thinking about as they approach this again, I’ll turn to the Hood Museum, and John Stomberg, I’ve mentioned in the past, and we were just talking about this earlier today. And he said, "Look, if we have someone who’s teaching the class, a faculty member, teaching a class that requires access to objects in the Hood, we have acquired the technology where we can provide high quality, three dimensional renderings of the object, so everyone who’s remote has access. The students who are physically present on campus can come in one of the collection rooms and have a, it would be timed entry in masks, and we would have appropriate protocols in place, but be able to physically engage with the object. And so, we’re thinking about things in that creative way, which I think is extraordinarily helpful and impressive.

So, Josh, I want to turn to you and ask a question that I think is on the minds of many members of our staff community and also the faculty. And that’s when, and whether they may be able to return to work on campus the summer before undergraduate students begin to return. So, can you tell us a bit about which functions have started to return to an on-campus presence and about progress towards the next phase of reopening?


Yeah, sure. So, as a reminder, we defined five access levels to campus that are really guided by the public health guidelines and the demands of our campus, that help kind of frame who should be on campus when, and at what point, and with appropriate approvals. So right now, we remain at the highly limited access phase, and so that’s the second most restrictive phase for campus. And so, at this phase, we’re really focused on those elements that are associated with research activity, with some of the critical, essential functions we need to support the students and staff that have remained on campus throughout this process. And at this phase, we’re also adding staff that are preparing us for the next phase. So, we’ve added a lot of our facilities staff back on campus to start preparing for more individuals on campus.

So that next phase, which would be called, the limited access phase, we’re hoping that by the end of July, early August, we can start to invite more folks back. In that phase, we’re still going to ask those who can work remotely to do so. A big part of our planning to bring the campus back online is how do we de-densify? How do we create six feet of space between all the things that we need to do? So those who can work effectively remotely, we will continue to ask them to do that. But by the time we get to the end of July early August, we do think we’ll be able to invite some more folks back. We’ll have things like additional screening in place. We’ll make sure that all of our facilities are ready with any changes to allow for spacing, for disinfecting routines and all of those things, which are really what we’re focused on this month as we bring some folks back to prepare the campus.


Great. Thanks Josh. So, Elizabeth, let me turn to you and ask one last quick question and then I want to take the last 10 minutes to give our viewing audience a chance to ask questions of the two of you, and that’s about the question of faculty choice, which I know has been a very important principle for you throughout. We have indicated that faculty will have a choice in determining how to offer their classes remote, residential, or hybrid. You’ve said from the beginning that it’s an important part of Dartmouth and important to you. Can you talk about that a bit? Why is that and what benefit does it provide to the campus?


Yeah, thank you for that question. It really comes down to two features. One is the safety of the faculty. Part of my charge is that my responsibility is all matters related to the development, functioning and wellbeing of the faculty. And I take that wellbeing very seriously. And so, I trust that the faculty know best whether they should be teaching remotely or whether they feel safe teaching in person. I trust their judgment on that.

The second piece is pedagogically, what makes the most sense for the material that they’re teaching? And again, I trust that the faculty know the best way to deliver the content, meet the goals of the course and do what’s best for the students. And so, I think for both of those reasons, it’s absolutely essential to give the faculty choice. When faculty are comfortable and they feel safe, they’re not anxious about teaching in front of a classroom, when they get to design their courses in the way that they feel is the best way to deliver that course, you’re going to have the best outcome.


Great. Thanks, Elizabeth. Well, thank you both. So, Justin, why don’t I turn to you and you can bring us through some of the questions that have come in from our viewing audience.


Yes. Thank you, Joe, and Elizabeth, if you don’t mind, I’d like to stay with you because I have a question that is related to faculty choice. And so, I will ask you, can faculty decide to have a course entirely remote even if some of the students are on campus?


Absolutely. I think that goes to the question of a faculty member who might not feel safe for whatever reason. It could be that they have a preexisting condition. It could be that they have family members with a preexisting condition that they take care of. And so, I trust their judgment in doing that. So yes, absolutely.


Josh, and over to you. A lot of questions about quarantine. Can you explain what quarantine will look like? Are you quarantined in a room? Are you quarantined in a residence hall? Are you quarantined on a floor? And then another strain of questions is about the timing of that. Are you quarantining while the term has begun or is it all before the term begins?


Thanks Justin. And so, this is one of the ones where the details, as Joe mentioned earlier, will be part of that mid-August communication where everything is detailed out based off of the latest guidance that we have from public health officials. I can talk at a high level and say that the thinking behind quarantine is that for us, the most critical aspect of welcoming students back on campus are during these first couple of weeks. So the Upper Valley has had very low incidents of community transmission, and so welcoming thousands of students from across the country will be one of the critical areas where we need to make sure we’re protecting our community and that we are identifying any potential cases that may have come from elsewhere and then we’re isolating them and taking care of them. And so, the quarantine is a really important part of that.

There is going to be some staggering of when people arrive on campus, but in general, we anticipate that there will be some overlap of quarantine with the beginning of the coursework. And we are spending a lot of time thinking about both the physical and mental health of students while in quarantine, as well as things like food and those types of needs. And so, the team is thinking a lot about that, coming up with different scenarios. And then based off of the latest guidance, we’ll pick the best combination based off of what we know in mid-August and let everyone know what they can expect. I will say students should expect that they will have to spend a fair amount of time in their rooms for quarantine, but what exactly that looks like and how they come and go is all stuff that we’re going to work on as we get closer.


Elizabeth, back to you with a question that’s really about the experience of learning remotely. And several viewers have written in to say without a doubt that some of their classes have been fabulous. Others have been not quite as fabulous. And so, the question has come up about professional development and what kinds of professional development is being offered. What kind of training is being offered for faculty who are interested given that this is not necessarily why they came to Dartmouth to be teaching online courses.


Right. Think that’s a great question. So, first of all, let me say that the Dean of the Faculty office is not just me. I have four associate deans assigned to each division within arts and sciences. The associate deans have been meeting with the department chairs in their division and Scott Pauls director of the Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning, DCAL, is also working with us and the instructional designers as well as ITC. So, as I mentioned earlier, we’re learning a lot from the course evaluations. We’re trying to identify where we might have places where we need to make improvements. And there are a number of ways that faculty are going to have opportunities for professional development. So, there will be academic support teams that are essentially assigned to various departments to help with students. Faculty are organizing themselves either through the divisional councils or departments to have discussion groups about best practices.

I know some departments have already started Slack channels to share ideas. And so, some of it, I guess to kind of summarize, some of it is more formal through the associate deans, department chair,s and DCAL working with individual faculty members. And some of it is more informal where faculty have already started their own discussion groups about best practices in a particular area. What worked well for your course? What didn’t? What didn’t you think actually worked well? What would you change? And remember, we also have some people coming online in the fall that are going to be teaching remotely for the first time who weren’t necessarily teaching in the spring. So, we’ve got to work to get them up to speed also on remote delivery.


Josh, I’d like to go back to you with a question. It’s really about on-campus facilities. Specifically, someone asks whether or not students living off-campus will have the exact same access to on-campus facilities as students who are living on campus. And then relatedly, a lot of interest in the fitness center of the gym. Is it going to open? When’s it going to open? What’s that going to look like?


Yeah. And I’m going to sound like a broken record and that mid-August we will have a lot more details. What we know now is that the capacity of our facilities, based on how everything is trending, the capacity of our facilities will be limited and how we operate them is going to need to look very different than we have in the past. And so, for all of the facilities that we are working to open up, it is likely that we will not be able to let everyone come and go as they please. And we will have to figure out systems for how we let students in at what time.

And so, I think it’s likely that those students who were assigned priority and had on-campus housing will likely end up first in that priority list. And depending on which facilities in what capacity, we’ll have to make a decision in August about whether or not we can extend that to people that may be off campus.


Elizabeth, we have time for one last question and I’m going to give it to you. It’s one that I know is near and dear to you. There are a number of people asking about labs and how it is that that your lab experience can be replicated remotely and how faculty are dealing with that challenge.


Yeah, that’s a great question. And you’re right, it is near and dear to my heart as a trained lab scientist. That’s tough. It’s really tough to do that. In the spring term, we had a large number of laboratory courses. They ran. They had virtual labs and the way that each department approached it, each course approach it was different. Depending on what the lab is, sometimes you need to kind of work the problem from the end in mind in the sense that what are the key concepts that we’re trying to accomplish? What kind of remote or online activity could we do so that students still learn the key concept even though the experience isn’t exactly a hands-on experience. And so, for lab courses that continue to operate remotely, the faculty will continue to create experiences that will accomplish the learning objectives of an online laboratory.


Thank you very much for that, Elizabeth. And thank you for joining us. Thank you both for spending time with us this afternoon. That was very informative. I wish we had more time. We have tons of questions, which just means that we will be back to hopefully answer most of them. Not next week, but in two weeks. Is that right, Joe?


That’s right, Justin. So, thank you, Justin. Thanks again, Elizabeth and Josh for joining us today. We will in fact be back in two weeks on Wednesday, July 22 at 3:30 p.m. for the next community conversation. I look forward to having you all join us then. And I will also say, please keep an eye out for updates to the FAQ website, particularly given the very lengthy and thoughtful set of questions that the student assembly submitted. We are working hard to develop answers to each of those questions and anticipate posting those by the end of this week. So, keep an eye out for that. Thanks, everyone. Be well. Have a good week and we look forward to seeing you in two weeks, same time, same place. Thank you.